Voices of Mackellar have released their Mackellar Matters report.

In an event held online last night (Thursday, 15 July) with over 150 attendees, the political action group Voices of Mackellar released a report containing the results of questions asked in a series of small group conversations.

Attendees at the event included Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan and former Member for Indi Cathy McGowan, whose ‘Voices for Indi’ group began the ‘Voices for…’ movement.

Craig Reucassel

The event featured Australian filmmaker Craig Reucassel, who has directed an upcoming feature documentary called ‘Big Deal’ focused on the political process.

“Recently I’ve been doing a lot of stuff on environment and climate change. One of the things I found in doing those documentaries was there always seemed to be a certain part of it where you run into a wall.

“The solution to this seems really obvious, why is it not happening? That’s the same problem a lot of people responding to your report said. Why are we not being heard?

“That’s part of what this documentary looks at, this issue of what voices are being heard, how our voices get heard, the issue of money in politics, and it also looks at the solutions. Democracy is not a spectator sport,” said Mr Reucassel.

The report is the result of 68 ‘kitchen table conversations’ held in the Mackellar electorate from November 2020 to May 2021 with a total of 380 participants. A further 50 responses were received from online surveys.

A series of questions were asked at each of the conversations in a format designed to allow each participant to express their views about the political process.

According to the report, which can be downloaded from the Voices for Mackellar website, the top concerns for participants in the kitchen table conversations were climate change, the environment, political donors and political accountability.

Voices for Mackellar Vice President Rebecca Clarke said local people were seeking action on climate change and political accountability.

“The number one concern is more action on climate change is needed and that is strongly linked to the fact we live in a beautiful environment. People nominate that as being precious to them.

“It’s linked with concerns happening here in terms of environmental destruction, the stuff that comes from climate change like Collaroy Beach erosion. There’s also population pressure that leads to development.

“Then there’s political accountability. So many times we heard about the need to stop political donations and the need to have a federal ICAC. People felt government is not accountable anymore.

“74 percent of people feel like they don’t have a voice. It’s a very high figure but when you think about how little community participation there is, and how few people are members of political parties, it’s not surprising,” said Ms Clarke.

Asked what impact she hoped the report might have, Ms Clarke said the Voices for Mackellar movement was hoping to engage people in the political process.

“We hope that the Mackellar Matters Report will encourage more people to participate in our democracy on matters that they care about, to demonstrate that their voice does matter, and encourage better dialogue between the community and our representatives.

“The Voices of Mackellar objectives are to encourage the highest standards of community consultation and representation that reflects the values of our community and we hope the Mackellar Matters Report helps us achieve that outcome,” said Ms Clarke.

Voices of Mackellar President Leonie Scarlett said residents expressed a lack of confidence in the federal political process and a level of discontent with their representation.

“People are worried about losing the sense of community they have here on the Northern Beaches. They fear rapid change is affecting their quality of life.

“At the national level, residents feel strongly that not enough is being done to mitigate the effects of climate change. There is a feeling that Australia is becoming a less egalitarian society. Gender equality and indigenous equality were also top of mind for many residents,” said Ms Scarlett.

Images: Voices for Mackellar